Driving Forces:
The Women of
Equestrian Sports

08 March 2017

International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate the women across the world who have made a difference in our lives, whether big or small. 

In the equestrian world, both female athletes and behind-the-scenes officials have been instrumental in developing the sport to the level it is now. 

 

So, as equestrian sports are the only sports that have men and women competing against each other as equals, we’re proud to shine a spotlight on some women who have changed horseriding for the better for equestrians across the globe.

 

Angelika Trabert

 

Angela is one of Germany’s most successful and well-known riders. 

 

The fact that she has no legs doesn’t seem to hold her back from achieving her dreams, as Angelika is not only a licensed judge and trainer, but a successful competitor herself.

 

Angelika takes her responsibilities as a role model very seriously and rather than focusing on her disabilities, Angelika prefers to highlight her ability. In fact, she says she was born privileged. 

 

 

 

 

As far as giving back to and developing the sport goes, Angelika is a force to be reckoned with, and her skills and experience mean that she is uniquely positioned to help contribute to developing equestrian and para-equestrian sports.  So much so, she was awarded the “Against All Odds” prize at the 2010 FEI Awards ceremony.

 

Sabrina Ibáñez

 

Another woman who has had a major impact on equestrian sports is Sabrina Ibáñez, the Secretary General of the FEI.

 

In 1991, Sabrina started at the FEI and over the years worked tirelessly to progress to her current position - and her passion for the sports she loves permeates through everything she does.

 

Her dedication to governance and ethics, as well as her deep understanding of the sports is second to none at the FEI!

 

Sabrina is definitely doing more than her share in making equestrian sports more enjoyable for both riders and spectators.  

 

 

 

Women and men should be seen as,
and treated as,
equals in all respects.

Enter Kate Reilly from Swaziland (an African country about the size of New Jersey, but with a much smaller population!)

She was instrumental in creating the Swaziland National Equestrian Federation from scratch, developing Jumping, Dressage and Vaulting. 

 

 

Kate poured her time not only into developing the sport for everyone, and has implemented riding programmed for underprivileged kids as well as a training programme for athletes.

 

To top off her success, Kate also managed to qualify and compete in FEI World Jumping Challenge Finals in Guatemala 2011 and Bulgaria in 2015, by qualifying her horse at South African shows.

 

Her horse, Swazi-Lizkhar Life of Lagos stands at a stud farm owned by Reilly family in Swaziland.

 

Before leaving the Swazi National Federation last year, Kate implemented a brand new system which will help to ensure the continual development and improvement of equestrian sports in Swaziland, and hopefully in further African countries too.

 

Dana Al Gosaibi

 

This is a woman who isn’t afraid to break the mould. 

 

She’s challenging the status quo in Saudi Arabia, where it’s believed that women should not ride horses.

 

Not only is she trying to make horseriding more easily accessible for women, she’s also breaking boundaries by doing things her own way – with less force than traditional Saudi Arabian training methods.

 

 

 

 

It’s not only the riders that make the sport what it is today though.

 

There are women working tirelessly behind the scenes to bring equestrian sports to the forefront, to improve the sport as a whole and the individual disciplines for riders across the globe at every level, and to generally make competing a pleasure for those of us who are lucky enough to ride competitively.

 

Anyone who rides outside of the main “hubs” for equestrian sports will know the challenges that come along with it.

 

The sport isn’t as developed as it is in Western Europe, the USA or even South America. Qualification for major events is difficult, and even local level competing can be fraught with administration issues. 

 

Of course, celebrity riders are a drawcard unto themselves, especially if they happen to be excellent riders too!

We’re talking about the likes of Zara Phillips, Jessica Springsteen, Kaley Cuoco and HRH Princess Haya. 

 

 

 

 

We love that they’re getting the general public excited about our sport – all horseriders will agree that anybody who helps get rid of the stereotype that “riding isn’t a sport because the horse does all the work” is someone we’re very, very proud of!

 

Isabell Werth

 

When talking about influential female German riders, it would be utter madness to pass by without mention of this incredible lady. 

 

The most decorated dressage rider in Olympic history has well and truly made her mark and has produced countless horses to the very top levels of the sport. She has won ten medals - six of them gold - and competed in five Olympics. 

 

Isabell isn’t the only woman who has been making waves in the horsey world. There are some ‘power women’ you just can’t skip over in this sport.

 

Beezie Madden, Charlotte Dujardin, Mary King and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum to name a few are some of the women who are consistently in the top rankings, showing that even at the highest echelons of the sport, a determined woman is a force to be reckoned with. 

 

To every single rider, judge, devoted mother, spectator, trainer, official - this Women’s Day, we want to say a huge ‘thank you’ to all the women who have made equestrian sports what they are today

 

Text by Sophie Kate Baker

Images by Liz Gregg, Julia Rau, Kit Houghton​ & Richard Juilliart